Sometimes it’s good to look outside of the industy, as we’re doing with this week’s Q&A with Dun Wang, chief product and growth officer at Calm, the No. 1 app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation. Calm was named Apple’s 2017 App of the Year and Google Play’s 2018 Editors’ Choice, so I thought this group would be interested in what Dun has to say about product leadership, development, and team building.
Jodie: You went from product lead for Yahoo News to Calm, a meditation app which was relatively young. Aside from moving from a corporate to start-up, what were the biggest changes for you as a product leader?
Dun: At Calm, I had to build a team, which involves hiring, inspiring, and mentoring people around a mission. The type of people who are successful at early-stage start-ups have very different DNA than those that thrive at big companies. It’s important to find that talent-company fit.
Jodie: Under your watch, Calm was named Apple’s 2017 App of the Year and Google Play’s 2018 Editors Choice. Can you point to product choices that you made that contributed to these outstanding accolades?
Dun: There is no formula for winning such prestigious accolades, but I believe it’s a combination of the following factors:
- Macro trends that the platforms are prioritising. Calm caught fire at a time when both Apple and Google started paying attention to digital health.
- Calm is loved by users — as evidenced by millions of user reviews and strong retention numbers.
- Calm is a great app that is well-designed and leverages the platform well. Platforms want to promote apps that deliver a great user experience and also show off the newest technologies.
Jodie: Calm has continued to grow and expand since the milestones above and has moved from a meditation app to arguably a content-based business, from sleep stories to a partnership with HBO. From a product standpoint, how do you prioritise which media features/products to launch first?
Dun: We prioritise based on distribution reach, impact, and also listen to feedback from users.
Jodie: How do you and your team work with your counterparts in the content team?
Dun: We collaborate very closely on features like content discoverability and personalisation.
Jodie: What are the product areas you are excited about for Calm in the future?
Dun: We’re creating more content and experiences for kids and families. We're also growing our international reach by localising in more languages.
Jodie: Knowing the news industry from your time as lead for Yahoo News, what advice would you give to product teams working on news products aiming for as much success as Calm has had?
Dun: The best product experience includes both personalisation and serendipity. People want both relevant content and Easter eggs.
Jodie: Is there anything else you would add for product leaders in the news industry?
Dun: I don’t think people want to spend more time staring at their phones. How do you get them the content they want more efficiently?
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